Moab Interim City Manager David Everitt (right) and Moab City Council member Rani Derasary relaxed after the council's meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

If David Everitt has his druthers, he’ll be out of his new job in a matter of months.

The former Moab resident is back in town to serve as interim city manager, after the Moab City Council voted 4-1 on Thursday, Oct. 6, to hire him on a temporary basis; Heila Ershadi voted against the majority.

Everitt replaces former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson, whose contract was terminated late last month, following a sometimes-tempestuous 17-month stint as the city’s top administrator.

His employment agreement with the city runs for up to six months, and council members could choose to extend it on a month-to-month basis as they search for a new full-time city manager. Realistically, though, Everitt said he doesn’t expect to be around for much longer than three or four months.

As he sees it, his main goal is to make sure that city hall gets back on track, while putting things into place to ensure that the next city manager succeeds at his or her job.

“I certainly hope that I can bring some predictability and certainty to the decision-making process,” he told the Moab Sun News.

In many ways, he said, transparency is the city’s main goal, and during his time as interim manager, he said he’ll be working with others to bring that goal to fruition.

He comes to city hall at a difficult time in its history, but judging by his past experiences, he knows a fair amount about tough transitions.

Until January of this year, Everitt served as Salt Lake City’s chief operating officer, as well as former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s chief of staff, for eight years.

But his time spent overseeing the day-to-day operations of Utah’s biggest city and state capital ended when current Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupsi took office, and announced that she planned to replace all but two city department heads.

Granted, he was working on an entirely different scale, with 3,000 employees, numerous departments and annual budgets of up to $1 billion. But the sense of anxiousness that city employees feel any time there’s a major shakeup is the same, he said, speaking as someone who presided over the changeovers of incoming and outgoing city administrations.

“I certainly watched and worked with other department directors for whom the transition was a challenge,” he said.

To a similar degree, Moab City employees have weathered uncertainties during Davidson’s tenure as city manager, beginning with the terminations of longtime city employees David Olsen and Ken Davey, and continuing with the resignation of former Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster.

The public works director position remains vacant to this day, and at the other end of city hall, the Moab City Police Department has been grappling with employee turnover.

“I feel like there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and people are ready to do the jobs that they were hired to do,” Everitt said.

Everitt had been following recent developments in Moab from afar, and when he learned about Davidson’s departure, he reached out to Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison to see if he could help out in any way.

The conversation went from there, he said, leading to the council’s vote last week. Under the terms of his contract, he’ll earn $10,440 per month, plus another $960 per month in per diem travel expenses.

Moab City Council members Kalen Jones, Kyle Bailey and Rani Derasary said they are glad to have him on board until the city finds a long-term replacement.

“He seems like a very qualified choice for interim manager,” Jones said.

“I think he’ll bring us a high level of professionalism,” Bailey said.

Bailey also praised Everitt for his familiarity with community, based on his time serving as the Youth Garden Project’s director of development from 2003 to 2005, and as a Canyonlands Field Institute educator for four years. In more recent months, Bailey said, Everitt helped out on the Grand County School District’s proposed levy that will appear on voters’ mail-in ballots.

“He’s been down here a number of times and helping out with community events, so I think we’re very fortunate to have a person to step in,” Bailey said.

Everitt’s time as Becker’s chief of staff and Salt Lake City’s chief operating officer stood out to Derasary, and she believes that Moab will benefit from Everitt’s strong connections around Utah, and at the state capitol building.

“I think the experience he gained doing that is really going to help us out,” she said.

Ershadi said she agrees that Everitt has an impressive resume.

“However, I’m very hesitant to make a vote without thoroughly vetting him somewhat,” Erhsadi said. “I don’t feel like I’ve had the time to do that.”

Interim manager has ties to the community

Everitt’s circuitous path to his current job actually began in Moab.

After he graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science in geology, he pursued a career in outdoor education – first as a volunteer ranger at Arches National Park, and later with the Youth Garden Project and the Canyonlands Field Institute.

“That was what brought me to this neck of the woods – to do the outdoor education-type stuff,” he said.

He began to work at Arches for “literally” $5 per day – plus free room and board – while commuting via bicycle from the park to a second part-time job at a now-defunct coffeehouse in downtown Moab.

“Those were some scary bike rides at the time,” he said.

In 2003, he joined the Youth Garden Project because, he said, he loves the nonprofit group’s mission of working with kids outdoors. Its mission was also in line with his college thesis on the potential for a local food system in Grand County.

As the group’s development director, he was in charge of everything from fundraising and community outreach efforts, to writing grants. He even got his hands dirty working at the YGP’s garden.

“I was terrible at it,” he admitted. “I’m not a very good gardener – I learned that about myself.”

In the early 2000s, he also led educational trips for the Canyonlands Field Institute, although his experiences there weren’t limited to excursions down the Colorado and San Juan rivers. Up until 2012, he served as vice chair on the institute’s board, and he played an instrumental role in launching the organization’s Intern and Apprentice Naturalist Scholarship Fund.

Around the same time, he served on the Grand County Planning Commission for several years during a period when the now-dormant Cloudrock resort development was the hot-button issue in town.

“That was definitely the biggie when I first moved back to Moab in late 2000,” he said.

Former county planning commissioner Susie Harrington’s path crossed with Everitt during that time, and she remembers him for his civic spirit.

“He was there as a public servant without a personal agenda, and he was there to respond to the needs of the community,” Harrington said.

Everitt said his time on the planning commission inspired him to go back to school, and he eventually earned a law degree from the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law – one of three degrees he now holds.

He worked briefly as a law clerk for the Utah Attorney General’s Natural Resources Division and a private Salt Lake City law firm, and right around that time, he met Becker, who offered him a job as his campaign manager.

In the years since he left Moab to attend law school, he said he’s seen a number of notable changes, from the proliferation of utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs) on city streets to the growing shortage of affordable housing in the community.

“It was crazy to hear stories about what people are paying for rent, and what is considered to be ‘reasonable’ rent,” he said.

Of course, many other individuals, groups and government entities are working to address that issue, and for now, at least, Everitt said his top priority is focusing on city hall.

During his first day on the job on Tuesday, Oct. 11, he began to meet one on one with city employees and officials, as well as others in the community, to introduce himself and hear their concerns.

“I just want to be available and accessible to both the public and the employees,” he said.

SLC’s ex-chief operating officer brings impressive résumé to the job, council members say

I just want to be available and accessible to both the public and the (city) employees.